Photography by Tracey Creed
Recipe by Tracey Creed and Amandine Paniagua
Words by Amandine Paniagua
Published August 31 2023
In a large pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic and sauté for about a minute, until fragrant, careful not to burn. Add the remaining ingredients, reduce heat to low and simmer for 10-15 minutes.
To cook the pasta, bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil and then add 4 tablespoons of sea salt. Add in your pasta and stir for the first few minutes to prevent the pasta from sticking.
Place a lid on your pot and bring the water back to a boil to avoid mushy pasta. Once the water is boiling again, remove the lid for the remaining cook time. Stir the pasta. Once the pasta is ready, turn off the heat and loosely drain the pasta. Your spaghetti should still be wet. Do not rinse.
Meanwhile, stir the basil through your bolognese, season to taste, and remove from heat. Transfer to a blender, add the milk and a pinch of salt, then blend until the mixture reaches a thick sauce consistency.
Divide pasta amongst bowls and serve with bolognese, extra basil and a sprinkle of nutritional yeast.
Leftovers will keep in the fridge in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
* We used packaged pasta here since we wanted whole grain pasta which we cannot purchase in bulk in Auckland at an affordable price. For cook time, follow your package directions. If you have purchased in bulk, cook pasta for approximately 8 minutes until al dente. You might need to test your pasta a few times; it should be firm to the bite yet cooked through.
This vegan lentil bolognese is a simple everyday recipe. It is a rich, satisfying and delicious comfort food. Inspired by Italian cuisine, this plant-based bolognese is a wholesome dish without much fuss. Bolognese has a diverse history, and not all of it comes from Italy! The Bolognese sauce, known in Italian cuisine as ragù, is a slow cooking method and a dish that originated in Bologna five centuries ago. It is a milk-based thick sauce mixed with different meats and a little tomato. It is never served with spaghetti pasta, as it can’t hold the mixture, and is preferred with substantial, wider pasta such as tagliatelle, which we followed here to picture. The international bolognese sauce that is also partially the inspiration for this recipe is a watered-down version, closer to a Neapolitan ragù, and thought to have been invented by Italian migrants in North America, combining lots of tomatoes, meatballs and spaghetti pasta. Pretty popular, it is then natural to make this inclusive, vegan version, both inspired by traditional and spaghetti bolognese and quick to make.
This vegan lentil bolognese is packed with essential nutrients through two of its ingredient stars. First, thanks to the lentils. They are rich in fibre, which helps our digestive system work properly and fuel our gut with essential bacteria for optimal function. Lentils also provide our body with a high volume of protein, 12 grams for ½ cup, which is enough for a day. Loaded with iron, folate, antioxidant polyphenols, potassium and vitamin B6, lentils can support our body against cardiovascular diseases, malignant cells leading to tumours and cancer, and high sugar levels. We prefer to use dried cooked lentils, but organic canned lentils do the trick when we are short on time or doing late dining.
Meanwhile, tomatoes provide water content, multi-vitamins A, B, E and C, and a plethora of minerals such as potassium, zinc, copper, manganese, fluor, nickel and iodine, in addition to amino acids and fibre. This cocktail favours toxin elimination by the body, stimulates immunity defences and motivates additional functions of the organism and gut. These actions help minimise infarct risk, slow cell ageing and act in the prevention of cancers. For this recipe, tomatoes come in canned form, a practical way to consume these fruits out of seasons. However, for the summer months, when tomatoes are abundant, we love using fresh tomatoes paired with some scrumptious, homemade tomato sauce.
The other day, I was chatting with a friend who recently lived in Italy, and he shared his thoughts on Italian cuisine, that is, in short terms, simple, peasant food made of ingredients of such high quality that the dishes are incredibly flavourful and therefore popular. And so, for this recipe, we followed the above principles without realising it. The ingredients are few, but if you use good ingredients, you will get good food. Start with quality tomatoes (organic helps!), pasta and salt, and you’ve got an incredible meal to enjoy. I also love that this vegan lentil bolognese is an easy dish to include in a meal-prep routine and batch prep to freeze for those tired days. And affordable.
We put together this recipe four or five years ago while creating our first ebook, Start. At the time, vegan lentil bolognese was quite popular. It was all over the internet, the Instagram bloggers, the vegan cuisine books, so we embarked on this train and made our version. I am glad we took some time to publish this recipe on the website. It’s an occasion to look back at the journey. We used to make a lot of this bolognese pasta at our flat Tuesday dinners, that and the cauliflower curry! Time flies, and it feels just a little bit nostalgic. It was pre-covid, pre-recession, and you could easily find wholemeal spaghetti at the supermarket—still a high cost of living with those unaffordable houses to rent. Vegan lentil bolognese was our go-to, cheap meal to fulfil the appetite around a big table. The food we connect with and to connect to others.